A Blue Screen of Death (BSOD), also called a STOP error, will appear when a problem is so severe that Windows must stop completely.
A Blue Screen of Death is usually related to hardware or drivers. Most BSODs display a STOP code which can be used to help find out the root cause of the Blue Screen of Death.
Did your PC reboot after the BSOD? If the blue screen flashes and your computer automatically restarts before you’ve had time to read anything, see the tip at the bottom of the page.
Below are the general steps for troubleshooting the Blue Screen of Death. Please refer to our Blue Screen Error Code List for individual STOP code troubleshooting steps. Come back here if we don’t have a troubleshooting guide for your specific STOP code or if you have no idea what your STOP code is.
Some of these steps may require you to start Windows in Safe Mode. If that is not possible, skip those steps.
How to fix a blue screen of death
This troubleshooting guide will apply to any version of Windows, including Windows 10, Windows 8, Windows 7, Windows Vista, and Windows XP.
The most important step you can take in troubleshooting the Blue Screen of Death is to ask yourself what you did before the device stopped working.
Did you just install a new program or piece of hardware, update a driver, install a Windows update, etc.? If so, there is a very good chance that the change you made caused the BSOD.
Undo the change you made and try again for the STOP error. Depending on what has changed, some solutions might include:
Starting using Last Known Good Configuration to undo recent registry and driver changes.
Use System Restore to undo recent system changes.
Roll back the device driver to a version prior to the driver update.
Check that there is enough free space left on the drive where Windows is installed. Blue screens of death and other serious issues like data corruption can occur if there is not enough free space on your primary partition used for Windows operating system.
Microsoft recommends that you keep at least 100 MB of free space, but you’ll regularly see problems with free space that low. It is generally advised that Windows users keep at least 10% of a drive’s capacity free at all times.
Scan your computer for viruses. Some viruses can cause a blue screen of death, especially those that infect the Master Boot Record (MBR) or boot sector.
Make sure your virus scanning software is fully up to date and is set to scan the MBR and boot sector.
If you can’t get far enough to run a virus scan from within Windows, use one of the programs we’ve highlighted in our list of Free Startup Antivirus Tools.
Apply all available Windows Updates and Service Packs. Microsoft regularly releases patches and service packs for its operating systems that may contain fixes for the cause of your BSOD.
Update the drivers for your hardware. Most Blue Screens of Death are hardware or driver related, so updated drivers may fix the cause of the STOP error.
Check the System and Application logs in Event Viewer for any errors or warnings that may provide further clues as to the cause of the BSOD. See how to start Event Viewer if you need help.
Returns hardware settings to default values in Device Manager . Unless you have a specific reason to do so, the system resources that an individual piece of hardware is configured to use in Device Manager should be set by default. Non-default hardware settings have been known to cause a Blue Screen of Death.
Returns BIOS settings to their default levels. An overclocked or misconfigured BIOS can cause all sorts of random problems, including BSODs.
If you’ve made multiple customizations to your BIOS settings and don’t want to load the default settings, at least try returning the BIOS clock speed, voltage settings, and memory options to their default settings and see if that fixes the problem. STOP error.
Make sure all internal cables, cards, and other components are installed and seated properly. Hardware that isn’t firmly in place can cause a Blue Screen of Death, so try putting the following back in, and then try the STOP message again:
- Reseat all internal power and data cables.
- Replace the memory modules.
- Replace the expansion cards.
- Test your system memory.
- Test your hard drive.
Run diagnostic tests on all hardware that you can test. The root cause of any blue screen of death is most likely a faulty piece of hardware: If a test fails, replace the memory or replace the hard drive as soon as possible.
Update your BIOS. In some situations, an outdated BIOS can cause a Blue Screen of Death due to certain incompatibilities.
Start your PC with only essential hardware. A helpful troubleshooting step in many situations, including BSOD issues, is to start your computer with the minimum hardware necessary to run the operating system. If the computer starts successfully, this proves that one of the removed hardware devices was the cause of the STOP message.
Typically, the only hardware needed to boot your PC to the operating system includes the motherboard, CPU, RAM, main hard drive, keyboard, video card, and monitor.
If you have identified hardware as the cause of the BSOD
Try one of these ideas:
Update hardware firmware.
Make sure your hardware is on the hardware compatibility list.
Check with the manufacturer for support information.
If you have identified software as the cause of the BSOD
One of these things should help:
- Reinstall the software.
- Check for and install any available program updates.
- Check with the developer for support information.
- Try a competitor program.
The PC is restarting before you can read the STOP code in the BSOD
Most Windows PCs are set to reboot immediately after receiving a serious error like a BSOD.
You can prevent this reboot by disabling the automatic reboot on system failure option.
Still can’t fix your blue screen of death?
If you’re not interested in fixing this BSOD yourself, even with help, see How do I fix my computer? for a complete list of your support options, plus help with everything related to the process, like calculating repair costs, getting your computer files, choosing the right repair service, and much more.